By AMANDA VINCENT
Three drivers — Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson — officially have clinched spots in this year’s 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship post-season. Harvick clinched his spot July 11 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, while Earnhardt and Johnson clinched Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. That is, provided all three of those drivers at least start all remaining races before the Chase.
Joey Logano could almost be added to the Chase-clinch list. He has clinched a spot inside the top-30 in points and won the Daytona 500 season opener back in February. As a result, he’ll be in the Chase, provided 16 or fewer drivers are points-paying race winners and inside the top-30 in points after the Chase-qualifying cut-off at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Sept. 12.
With seven races until the Chase, there have been 11 different winners, 10 of those currently inside the top-30.
Kyle Busch, meanwhile, is on the outside looking in, at least for now, despite winning three of the last four races on the schedule. Sidelined by injury for the first 11 races, Busch is 33rd in points, 58 points outside the top-30, the threshold he needs to surpass by the time the checkered flag waves at Richmond.
“We just have to keep doing our deal every weekend, and it’s been getting better and better,” Busch said. “It’s certainly the right thing to do is to win races and to gather those points, but to do it in the fashion we have been — just winning these things, that’s just spectacular and that’s awesome.”
Drivers with wins up to this point include Kevin Harvick (2), Joey Logano (1), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2), Jimmie Johnson (4), Martin Truex Jr. (1), Brad Keselowski (1), Matt Kenseth (1), Kurt Busch (2), Denny Hamlin (1), Carl Edwards (1) and Kyle Busch (3).
The highest non-race-winning drivers in the points standings include Jamie McMurray in ninth, Jeff Gordon in 10th, Kasey Kahne in 12th, Ryan Newman in 13th, Paul Menard in 14th, Aric Almirola in 15th and Clint Bowyer in 16th.
Chase slots not filled by race winners will be filled by the drivers highest in the points standings after Richmond.
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